MEW And The Glass Handed Kites (Columbia)

Let’s deal with the obvious issues first. There’s the band’s name, for a kick off, disconcertingly similar to that of a certain British prog-pop trio. Next, consider the sleeve art, which suggests an outtake from the “Queen II” cover shoot squeezed through Photoshop’s Dali filter. Finally, there’s the issue of song titles such as “Saviours Of Jazz Ballet (Fear Me, December)” and “The Seething Rain Weeps For You (Uda Pruda)”. What exactly do you think Mew sound like?

It’s probably not a great shock to discover that this Danish quartet sound superficially like Muse, but their music is lighter, fluffier and less intense than that with which the Devonians lay waste to stadia. There are no side-long suites in evidence here, but most of the tracks flow seamlessly into each other – you’re more likely to be jarred by silence in the middle of songs than between them.

“And The Glass Handed Kites” isn’t a work of sustained brilliance – “Chinaberry Tree” still sounds like a random, angular jumble of sound to me, rather than a proper song, and the clanging guitars of “A Dark Design” suggest a band of inspiration-starved My Bloody Valentine copyists. But J Mascis brings some craggy vocal authority to the chiming, celestial “Why Are You Looking Grave?”, ostensibly throw-away bridges such as “Fox Cub” and “Small Ambulance” are invested with as much care and attention as the longer songs. Even at their most ostensibly Muse-ian the likes of “Apocalypso” and “Special” are imbued with the kind of twisty-turny tricksiness that their more famous counterparts would trample underfoot. There’s the slightest of reggae hints to “An Envoy To The Open Fields”’ unsquare dance, Mascis again hauling himself out of the primeval ooze to contribute disgruntled backing vocals. And though it’s easy to poke fun at their dark, thickly impenetrable lyrics, the album’s acapella closing lines, “Stay with me/Don’t want to be alone” seems to humanise everything that’s gone before it.

“And The Glass Handed Kites” is a subtler, more inventive work than Muse have ever turned in. If that sounds like the kind of album you think you need, dive in.